Earlier this year this blog got rather neglected; likewise my partner, friends and family. However there was a good reason and, hopefully, it’s all been worthwhile as today I received confirmation that I have passed the Postgraduate Certificate in Genealogical Studies!
The course is part of the Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme provided by the University of Strathclyde which offers one of only a few qualifications in genealogy currently available in the UK. The course is delivered online (although with some opportunities to meet tutors and fellow students in person) and attracts students worldwide, although with the majority in the UK and from Scotland in particular. The Postgraduate Certificate is provided by the University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning and, despite the title, an undergraduate degree is not a requirement, although there is a formal application procedure.
My motivation to undertake the course was threefold: firstly, to increase my knowledge and improve my genealogical skills; secondly, in order to get a qualification relevant to my profession (something which I think is going to become increasingly important for professional genealogists); and finally, for personal enjoyment and satisfaction.
I’m not quite sure I knew what I was letting myself in for though, as I apparently overlooked the part of the course brochure which mentioned a requirement of 20 hours a week and it was something of a shock to hear this when attending a introductory meeting! However I kidded myself that, as I would know most of it already, I could easily get away with committing less time.
This turned out not to be the case as even simply reading the handouts and completing assignments took about 20 hours a week. As my weekdays and evenings are already filled, this pretty much meant spending every Saturday and Sunday from the time I got up until midnight on coursework, and this was without doing any additional reading (which I would have liked to have been able to do). Hence the neglect of everyone and everything else!
Nevertheless, I don’t regret my decision to do the course and would certainly recommend it to others. It definitely isn’t a course for beginners, or even for those who’ve exhausted the basic genealogical sources and want to learn a little more in order to better trace their own ancestors, but rather for those who’ve been bitten by the genealogy bug in a big way and want to undertake a serious academic study of the subject, whether with a view to turning professional or not.
I do think it’s a worthwhile course for those who already consider themselves to be quite advanced in genealogy as there is so much information given in the handouts that cannot easily be found elsewhere. I found that having some knowledge of the majority of record types discussed was an advantage as it made the background information (much of which was new to me) more relevant and easier to understand.
Any complaints I have about the course are more in the nature of small niggles: some handouts did not appear to have been spellchecked or proofread, occasionally some information was out-of-date (mainly on non-Scottish sources) and I think there was general confusion caused by a lack of clear guidelines on referencing. However, this is partly balanced out by the fact that tutors do appear to take complaints seriously and that the course is frequently adjusted in response to student feedback.
My only further comment is that it may not be clear from the course brochure how strongly Scottish-based the course is. Whilst the idea that skills learnt from researching genealogy in one country can be transferred to another country is a sound one; I would have liked to have seen greater inclusion of English and Irish records as the coverage of these at times seemed perfunctory. However, I do realise that it is not possible to include everything (certainly not in the already packed eight months during which the course runs) and that non-Scottish sources are covered in greater depth later.
Perhaps the best recommendation for the course is that following completion of the Postgraduate Certificate a large number of students, myself included, have chosen to advance to the Postgraduate Diploma. So if this blog goes a bit quiet again in a few months you’ll know why!